Where am I?

Created this blog to document my travels, experiences & thoughts thru Central & South America but hell plan to blog my travels to where ever. Goofy harmless Free Spirit hoping to spend most of my time with locals & enjoy the world! So hang on as I travel, drink cervezas, raise a little hell, maybe piss off a few people & hopefully not give Canadians a bad reputation! Of course don't do these things on purpose but while having a good time well "Shit Happens"!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hustlers & Scam Artists in Senegal gives Bad Impression of Country, so left earlier than planned leading to a crazy bus adventure to Mali!!!!!

Dakar the capital of Senegql turned me off the country as everywhere I turned there were people trying to either sell me something, hire them to guide or show them qround. I can understqnd thqt they want to make a living but hey it gets to be too much. A person can't even go out on the street without being attacked by one of the vultures waiting to make a dollar or should say a CFX (the West African currency)

I was staying near the beach and wanted to head down town to check out the trains or buses to take to Mali, etc. But as soon as I got out the friggin door a guy who knew minimal English starts walking beside me and giving me the standard sales pitch which is now embedded in my brain. "Hi, where are you from?, where are you going?, what is your nqme?, do you need a taxi?, would you need to look at my .... whatever? etc" I've heard it so many times in Africa that I don't even bother listening. But the best defence is not to acknowledge them at all cus then there is no further conversation. I know its rude but hey what they're doing is also rude cus I just want to be left alone.

The beach area in Dakar is called N'org which is a mess of homes in no particular arrangement plus a bunch of narrow streets. So had to walk out to the main street of the area. It was also hard to catch a bus downtown as it was a long way away and difficult to explain. I did manage to negotiate a $2.50 taxi ride downtown which was quite good so I was quite proud of my self. But like in all African (also include Spain in that category) countries no one ever seem to have any change. So a pocket full of coins and small bills will save u a lot of time while they dont have to run around getting change for the equivalent of a $10 or $20 bill. Hell in Asia it seems the merchants purposedly dont have change so they can try to sell u 2 of a product so they don't have to give u change.

So this driver dropped me off in front of this delapitated building that says train station but seemed liked a junkyard for old trains. The guide book stated that taking the train from Dakar in Senegal to Bamako in Mali was one of the last great adventures in travel. Well it seemed oblviously that the last great adventures in travel between the 2 countries had done its last trip 20 years ago. There were just a bunch of hawkers pitching their shit in front of locked up gates. So I went around the side to get inside the station. All I could find were a bunch of people sleeping in various parts of the station. No the station wasn't being used as a shelter for the homeless, well maybe it was but the majority of the people were just having a nap during the heat of the day! i couldn't find a schedule, office or anyone who could offer any informaton on when or if the train still ran. The trains i saw were definitely in no condition to run 100 meters let alone a 1000km.

So that was a waste of time so decided to check out a travel agent that was in the travel guide. Well the travel agent was also a waste of time cus they had no information on whether the train still ran or not. it seems in these countries the travel agents purpose is strictly to sell airline tickets not any other means of transportation or even suggest any alternate ideas.

So after spending the better part of the day downtown without getting any real information I headed back to the beach Auberge (cheap hotel) that I was staying. Luckily the owner of the Auberge offered to get me a guy to take me to the bus station (the location of which wasn't indicated in the travel guide) to check out a ticket to Bamako the next morning. Well the next day this dude took me to this bus station where I managed to buy a ticket for Bamako for about $50 for the 28 hr overnight bus trip. Well since I had no better alternative I got a ticket on the bus running at 10 pm that evening.

I was told to be at the bus for 8 pm so I could get a good seat (hell I had no problem with that idea cus been on these Afreican buses so knew that seat selection was a first come & most aggressive person approach but not in a bad way). So like in all of Africa the guy taking me to the bus had his hand out for some cash and a payment was required. Theres also a charge to have my bag stored in the luggage compartment cus. But that charge I didn't mind giving as it as it beat having my bag stolen. I got to the bus station (was actually a big parking lot) as suggested to get a good seat but hell all the women were geting on before the guy running show said we could. So I got on and grabbed a good seat and was having a snooze. But this guy came along to get us all off. Then to my surprise they had a systematic method of assigning seats. They callied out each passenger's name and they got on the bus to select a seat. Hell that was the first time I saw that in Africa so why the hell wasn't that done in other places to avoid mass bedlam on the bus. When I pick a seat on a bus (especially Africa) I always try and figure out in which dircetion we'll be travelling and pick a seat on the shady side of the bus and near the roof air vent. This came from experience cus tho some buses may have air conditioned written on them. Well no buses have or use them as it burn more gas! So the windows in the buses don't roll down so it's like a fucking oven inside. In African buses people bring on a loooooot of baggage and a lot ends up in the aisles. So u have to crawl over the bags, boxes, etc to get out. But that also serves as a seat for the people who unfortunately dont have a seat. I've been lucky most of time and have gotten a seat except maybe a couple times in East Africa / touch wood!!!

I figure we left close to 10 pm as announced and drove thru the night stopping to pick up and drop off passengers. We stopped for the ocassional police check but nothing like in Mauritania!! The bus didn't make many pit stops during the night for bathroom breaks so the people would just yell to the driver to stop. The also didn't stop at many eating establishments (I use this word cus can't actually refer to them as restuarants). Luckily I don't have much of an appetite when the weather is hot as hey its not that I turn my nose up at less than reputable eating establishments. Hell I can and do eat at any place or road side stall without a thought! My lost of appetite in the heat is well made up for when the weather is cooler cus boy I can eat with the best of them like a friggin Pig!!!!! Anything, everything, and lots of it gets shoved in my mouth as fast as possible like there's no tomorrow!!! Well at least I'm honest if nothing else in describing myself!

Soi after about 15 hours on the bus we arrived at the Mali border. When we left Senegal we all got off the bus where an officer took our passports . So we sat and waited in the courtyard of a crumbled down (but I didn't expect a state of the art structure) police station. Then each of us got called and an exit stamp was put on our passport. This took about an hour and then we drove down the highway and we went through the entire thing again but to enter Mali. I needed a visa to enter Mali but since I hadnt gotten one at one of their Embassies I had to pay 15000 CFX or about 40 dollars. However this was only an entry stamp as I still had to get a visa within 5 days on entering Mali. But at least I got to enter the country and get my visa later.

So after all that waiting in the hot sun I kind of dozed off and on in the bus for the next 1/2 dozen hours: Then I was awaken as we entered this town as I noticed that a lot of people were getting off. So with out giving it much thought (not that I do at the best of times) well I got off the bus too: Of course like in most places the arrival of a bus in town is followed by a small army of taxi drivers offering to drive u to a hotel. So I pulled out my travel guide to find a cheap place to stay in Bamako. I wanted to go to the Mission de Catholic as it was supposedly had an outdoor courtyard to chill from the noise in the center of the city. The driver sqid he knew the place so I hopped in and he drove me to this building which didnt seem to be in the center of the city. But the person in the building told us the actual place to stay was in a different spot:. So we went to this other building which still didnt seem to be in the center of the city but did have a courtyard. The price was about 5 dollars for a room so the cheap guy that I am well I eargerly took it.

So I showered and decided to check out the town for a place to eat: But as I walked I was puzzled cus the Mission was by the river not at all like the map showed in the guide book. A bell should have also gone off when I noticed the river and asked the driver if the river was the Niger River but he said the Senegal; duh: But as I walked around I seemed to be far from the city center as stated in the travel guide: So as I walked by a bunch of taxis one of the guys offers to drive me which usually I would ignore but I was thinking shit I dont know where the frig I am. So I say yeah drive me to the center of town. So he drives me 5 blocks or so and says here it is but shit it didnt seem to match the map:. So he stops a guy who got someene who spoke good English: This guy told me he was going to university in Denver (my first thought was dude once u experience the mtns, rivers, etc there well theres no way u will want to live back here in this dusty, dry, hot city) looks at my map and like th bright university student he is told me the reason u cant find the center of town shown in the map is cus u are looking at a map of Bamako and u are in Kayes. (he must have thought dude how the fuck did u make it to Africa as u cant even fuckin read a map):: The guys says No problem as u just stay the night and catch the bus in the morning the 9 or 10 hrs to Bamako: Well shit I thought - Tom u stupid idiot why the hell didnt u check before u got off the bus or realize that we arrived so early but shit what can I say but shit..So went and got a ticket for the bus the next morning to Bamako. Then had the taxi driver pick me up so Id make the next morning bus.

So another stupid mistake by yours truly. But got to thinking hox the shit was I so stupid but at least no harm done but cost me about 20 dollars for the bus to the real Bamako.

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